Center for World Conflict and Peace

Center for World Conflict and Peace

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Obama Administration's Response to Egypt–The Final Word

Calvin Coolidge, one of the "greatest" US presidents once said "Never go out to meet trouble. If you will just sit still, nine cases out of ten someone will intercept it before it reaches you." From what Brad wrote, it seemed that Obama followed this dictum after he formulated his policy, and he was lucky because everything ended "well" in Egypt (that Mubarak resigned and a transition government was formed).

Note that I used the quotation marks around the word "well," because we are still unsure whether in the future the Egyptian military will truly honor its commitment toward democracy. It may simply just wait until people get tired of the instability and uncertainty that is inevitably around the corner before going back to business as usual.

Back to the main argument. If like Brad said, Obama made a policy (the "now" moment), and it was affirmed by Gibbs, then he should have reengaged when he was contradicted by both Wisner and Hillary, who I think correctly surmised that Obama's call would end up in a huge collapse of US credibility among these autocrats in the Gulf. Regardless how loathsome they are to their people, they still hold the levers to power (and oil) and they are still useful to counterbalance Iran.

Obama was vindicated because the Egyptian army folded and Mubarak resigned. Had Mubarak still had some fire in his belly, with the Saudis' help, events could have turned really ugly, much like what is currently happening in Libya. Counterfactually, I think, with a good nudge, Hillary and Wisner could have persuaded Mubarak to resign before he did, thus shortening the uprising. In short, Obama is lucky that events worked in his favor. Had Mubarak cultivated better ties with his military, and had the military developed more at stake with the Mubarak regime, things could have turned out much differently.

Still, like I noted in another post, the biggest problem now is that Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which have noticed how the U.S. treats its loyal allies, will think twice before listening to the White House.

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